There’s no more margin for error, and the New York Knicks looked like a team knowing they can’t afford to lose in their 98-91 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans, which was mostly about Carmelo Anthony doing almost everything on his own, making it work this time.
Anthony scored almost half the points for the Knicks, finishing with 42 on 16-of-28 from the field. This wasn’t a “pretty” 42 with ball movement, screens, pick & rolls and cuts to the basket with point guards using vision to find him. All that doesn’t exist for the Knicks this season, so Anthony gets his points the hard way. Maybe it points to a bit of selfishness from the All-Star, but it also shows just how bad he has it and how impressive it can be when he does go off like this.
Anthony was actually guarded by Anthony Davis for much of the fourth quarter, but that didn’t seem to slow him down. All of his problems in recent games and throughout this season in the fourth quarter, with many attributing fatigue to his bad numbers, disappeared. He scored 13 points in the fourth, as nothing that Pelicans sent his way seemed to slow him down one bit.
Our help defense was trying to get there, but you can’t help against a guy like that if you give him one or two dribbles to the basket. He was efficient all night long. He hit tough shots. A lot of those shots had a hand in his face. Carmelo was just in the zone tonight. He was in rhythm. He made some plays down the stretch that really hurt us.
It wasn’t ALL Anthony. The injury to Iman Shumpert early in the second half meant more minutes to J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. Raymond Felton was having an awful shooting game on his own, but he did feed the ball well to others, finishing with 8 assists. Smith scored 19 points and Hardaway added 16 with the two combining to shoot 6-of-10 from beyond the arc on a good long-range shooting day for the Knicks, hitting 47.6% of their 3-point attempts.
With so many players out, things weren’t so smooth on the other side, as Anthony Davis struggled to get his shots with some good defense from Tyson Chandler and the Knicks as a team, as strange as that might sound. Eric Gordon led them with 28 points while Davis had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks, but also 4 turnovers. Seeing Tyreke Evans with another disappointing performance off the bench (3-of-11 from the field) was another day of regretting giving him that huge deal in the offseason, which hasn’t upgraded this team one bit.
The Knicks once again feel like the playoffs are within their grasp, but this needs to have some continuity. Anthony won’t score like this every game, but finding open looks for Smith and Hardaway is a good way to start. Actually playing some defense is another big plus no one really expected, but if the Knicks can keep it up maybe that 8th spot in the East won’t look so far away.